Thank You, Terrio
By Mitzi Smith
Everything I know about music, I learned from Mrs. Opal Setaro. She made ‘my world’ a better place. She could tickle the ivories like a master pianist. Children in the Young Singers Choir would do anything for her. She never had children of her own, therefore her students were her children. She loved them with all of her heart. Her skill with first through sixth graders proved itself in the harmonizing sounds drifting from her classroom. Terrio, as I called her, was so much more than a piano and vocal teacher. I considered her more like a grandmother and, friend. She was one of the godliest ladies that I have ever known.
Terrio played piano for Gibson Memorial Methodist Church for fifty years and would not accept pay for her service. "I will not take one penny for my service to the Lord. This is what He gifted me to do," she would say. If a church tried to pay her, the earnings were given to the offering. "No one is going to take my blessing." Her faithfulness impacted me in my walk of faith. She was steadfast in her devotion and love of the Lord.
When her husband passed away, the strength she drew from her Savior shone through. She lived alone, but was not lonely. The deep relationship she had with the Lord carried her through the grief and sorrow. The summer following "Unkie’s" death, I often spent the night with Terrio. We played cards all night long and Terrio always beat me. We would cook omelets in the mornings after talking most of the night. She had a wealth of stories of growing up on Chambers Street.
When I was in seventh grade, I did my first report based on an interview. Terrio helped me with my research of the 1954 tornado that hit our town theatre. Due to her vivid memory and help with contacts, I received a perfect score on my history paper. There are so many wonderful memories of Terrio. Every time that you saw her, she would have a peppermint in her mouth. She always had on bright red lipstick blotted just right, with her purse hung on her arm.
She would carry us everywhere to perform. On one occasion, she took my sisters and me to convention. We were to perform for the governor. I walked up the steps to the microphone. When Governor Cliff Finch of Mississippi came over to greet me, his foot hit the flagpole knocking it onto my collarbone. I went backstage to regroup and, being the age of seven, I cried a little.
When my sisters and I got up to sing, I suffered from a case of the hiccups from my crying spell. We sang three-part harmony to "Each Step I Take" as if nothing happened. It was almost impossible not to snicker because of the hiccups every measure or two. Terrio kept playing the piano and smiling and we never missed a note.
After Mrs. Setaro's retirement, her students held a ceremony to honor her years of service. We sent out invitations, had food catered and invited the mayor, who was also taught by Mrs. Setaro as a child. The mayor presented Terrio with a key to the city. She made the front page in the local paper, accompanied by a large picture of her with the mayor. It was her day and she realized how much she was loved for her teaching and service to the Lord. She would be honored to know that our town still has a Young Singers Honor Choir based on the same principles and ideas of her original group. This group performs for civic groups, banks, nursing homes and community events, keeping her tradition of excellence going.
It has been nearly ten years now since Terrio went to be with the Lord. I know our Jesus met her and told her, "Well done," when she entered heaven. The death of a saint is precious in His sight.
She was loved and appreciated by so many who will not soon forget her. I pray that her godly principles and her love for music and service will continue to be passed down through the generations.
Mitzi Smith is a wife and mother of three who enjoys writing from her heart to encourage and comfort others on this journey. She also enjoys leading praise and worship. She lives with her family in Mississippi. You may contact Mitzi through the Letters page of this magazine.
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